NOTE: The following interview was conducted prior to Marvel Studios' announcement of Jane Foster becoming Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Jane Foster's history has made her an expert on the relationship between life and death in the Marvel Universe. She's seen the struggle and balance between those forces play out from a number of different perspectives, not the least of which are as a doctor, as Thor, and as a cancer survivor. In the aftermath of the War of the Realms there is a need for someone with that understanding. The Asgardian Valkyries were wiped out in that conflict, leaving the souls of the valiant dead without an escort to the next life. So Jane did what any hero in her position would do. She picked up their mantle.
In Valkyrie: Jane Foster, by writers Jason Aaron and Al Ewing and artist CAFU, Jane will navigate multiple worlds -- the mundane one where she'll try to hold down a job and maintain a secret identity; the afterlife, where she'll attempt to help the dead find some measure of peace; and the superheroic one, where she'll battle some of the Marvel Universe's vilest villains.
CBR spoke with Aaron and Ewing about the diverse worlds Jane will fly through, the friends and foes she'll run into, and the nature of the “All-Weapon” a mysterious artifact she'll employ in her quest.
CBR: Valkyrie finds Jane Foster serving in a new role in the Marvel Universe. Where did the idea for Jane's latest transformation come from? Jason, what made you want to continue to write Jane, and Al, what made you want to get involved with this series?
Jason Aaron: I was really blown away by the real emotional response to Jane's story and her struggle with cancer, so I wanted to do right by that story. That story could only end one way. It didn't magically erase her cancer. She needed to continue that fight, and by the end she needed to die in some sense. It was the Mighty Thor part of her that died though so Jane could come back and continue her battle with cancer.
Once we got through that, this story was there. And everything tied together; the War of the Realms and the fact that the Valkyries were the first major casualty of the war. Their sacrifice inspired Jane to pick up their mantle.
Al Ewing: I was asked if I was interested, and I had to check my schedule - it's pretty packed at the moment - but I couldn't help giving some ideas out over the phone, and the more I thought about it, the more hooked I was, in terms of just playing in that mythological realm again. I've always been happiest when I can get elbow-deep in the metaphorical, magical dimension of superheroics - the symbolic weight of these decades-old characters, whether in their original forms or combined into new iterations - and the Norse Mythology factor, along with the whole death aspect, adds a whole lot more interesting symbols and metaphors to play with. I haven't really touched that particular sea of signifiers since I left Loki: Agent of Asgard behind me, and I'm about ready to wade back in for a dip.
As Valkyrie, what sort of people will Jane usher into the afterlife? Is she limited to believers in Valhalla? And after spending much of her life as a doctor, where she was dedicated to preserving life, what's it like for her to help people enter into the afterlife?
Ewing: There will be characters from the Marvel Universe making the last ride with Valkyrie within the first arc - but I'll reveal that her first trip in that capacity isn't to Valhalla.
As for her civilian role as a doctor, it actually syncs up - she's lost people in her civilian role, personally and professionally. She hasn't always been able to save everyone - and as Jane Foster, she's come to terms with that reality, because sometimes that's the job. But as Valkyrie, with all her new powers and her previous super hero accomplishments as Thor, she's finding that a little harder to deal with.
Will Jane continue to be a doctor in this series? Will her identity as Valkyrie be a secret one?
Aaron: One of the things I liked writing about Jane as Thor was her secret identity and all the fun we had because of it. That's something we've gotten away from in superhero comics and I really wanted to get back to that.
I wanted to show how what she's doing as a superhero makes life incredibly difficult and complicated, but at the same time Jane is not just happy to be alive. She's also happy to be back in the game. She's happy to be able to fly again and to step up and be a superhero again. She knows this is a thing that might not last. She could die tomorrow, but she's going to enjoy every second of the journey.
So, we'll have this big otherworldly adventure, but it's also the story of someone trying to get by the daily life of New York City, and how that's complicated by her role as Valkyrie.
In issue #1 for instance, we see her get bumped down to the morgue in the hospital. So, now she's dealing with the dead in her mortal life. She's not just having to deal with Bullseye running around with a magic sword. She's also concerned with how does she keep her job? How does she pay her rent? Answering those questions will get more and more difficult as her adventures as Valkyrie continue.
Speaking of Bullseye, what inspired you to pit him against Jane in this first arc? And will he really be able to go toe-to-toe with Jane in a physical fight?
Ewing: Bullseye was Jason's idea. We needed someone who was very good at killing people, essentially. And Bullseye's beefed up a little, thanks to a certain magical item that I won't spoil right now -- enough to withstand some pretty god-powered punches.
Aaron: We talked about different bad guys and I liked the idea of not bringing in a traditional Asgardian villain. I liked the idea of pitting her against somebody completely unexpected and having them be powered up in some sense by an Asgardian weapon.
With the War of the Realms, all these Asgardian artifacts and weapons are scattered around. Arming someone like Bullseye with one of them makes him an even cooler bad guy. He's dangerous no matter what weapon he's holding. So if he's suddenly in possession of a weapon that can murder gods he's even scarier.
Just how powerful is Jane, now? How does what she can do as Valkyrie compare to what she did as Thor?
Ewing: Whether she's as strong as she was as Thor - without going back in time for a cross-temporal arm-wrestle, it's hard to say. But in terms of her power set, she does have one thing she didn't as Thor - the All-Weapon that bonded to her at the end of War of the Realms. There's more on how that works in War of the Realms: Omega, but essentially it becomes whatever Jane needs it to be - including wings. In the first couple of issues, we see her immediately learning some cool tricks with it - much as when she wielded Mjolnir, she could use it in ways the original Thor hadn't considered - and as weapons go, it's pretty damn sweet. Plus it's also the key to Valhalla, and a pair of shape-changing wings that allow her to fly without the need for a winged steed. So Valkyrie probably could give Thor a run for her money, if the two were to have that time-travel fight.
Where did the idea for the All-Weapon come from? Does it have a sentience similar to what Mjolnir had?
Aaron: Part of the idea came from wanting to give her a weapon that was distinctive. We didn't want her to carry another hammer or just have a sword. So we talked about different weapons. I liked the idea of something like a mace. We then decided, “Why not have a weapon that can be all of those? It can change shape and become what she needs it to be.”
As to whether it's intelligent? It might be. We'll see as things go on. It's certainly a very different sort of weapon from the previous Valkyrie, and another thing that I enjoyed about Jane's time as Thor was that she had a very real relationship with the hammer. It was different from the one Thor Odinson had with it. It wasn't just a chunk of uru. It was a very real presence.
Who are some of the other foes and friends Jane will run into and afoul of in your initial issues?
Aaron: I'm known for my affection for the Orb. Al has a similar appreciation of some oddball villains like Blue Streak.
Ewing: Blue Streak does appear in the first arc.
We've also got the previous Valkyrie, Brunnhilde, in a support role for the first issue - giving advice from her fancy new residence, Valhalla. There's also a place in the first few issues for Brunnhilde's other half, Annabelle Riggs, who might have some advice for the human half of the Valkyrie equation. Aside from that, we're building up a new supporting cast of mostly new faces - including a certain horse who we're sure will be the Character Find of 2019 - and one old face who readers of my previous work will recognize. Jane's not the only medical professional who's ever been dumped by a super hero, after all.
You're working with CAFU, an artist who has an incredible knack for character acting. How has his skill with body language and facial expressions impacted the stories you're telling?
Aaron: He's an artist that can do everything this book entails: grand Asgardian superhero shenanigans, working in the morgue of a New York City hospital, and everything in between.
Ewing: CAFU's character acting is absolutely phenomenal - he has a really subtle command of faces and acting that absolutely shines through. Plus his people and places have a level of solid reality, a there-ness that's worth its weight in gold. Also, when he draws gold, it's really shiny. So he's the perfect artist for a character who gets about on golden wings.
Finally, Jane's new role involves death, but she lives in the Marvel Universe, a place where dying is rarely permanent. Does the phenomenon of death and rebirth impact how she views her new role?
Aaron: When you're dealing with the gods of Asgard, Valhalla is a very real place. It's a part of the landscape and the setting for stories like this. That means when a character dies they don't necessarily disappear completely from things. As part of her job as Valkyrie, Jane goes back and forth between our world and Valhalla. So it's part of the setting of our book.
Ewing: There's death in Valkyrie, but there's also rebirth - we're bringing someone back from the beyond who could end up causing some major trouble for our heroine. As for the revolving door aspect... death has been seen as a journey for centuries. The only difference is that in the Marvel Universe, sometimes you get a return ticket. I'm not sure that makes it any less serious - the fact that sometimes in this reality you can return, perhaps changed and with strange knowledge, only makes the original voyage even more mythic in my view.
Aaron: I'm excited to see Jane carve out this new chapter in her life. I love that she'll have some brand new adventures in a number of different corners of the Marvel Universe.
Ewing: Yes, the series starts off in New York City, but we're going to be visiting more mythical realms - realms of the living and the dead - in very short order, and even heading to the very edge of all time, space and existence in the Marvel Universe - and a little beyond. Would you expect anything less?
Valkyrie: Jane Foster #1, by Jason Aaron, Al Ewing and CAFU, goes on sale Wed., July 23.